S. Korea and Malaysia seek bilateral FTA, bioenergy cooperation
South Korea and Malaysia have agreed to push for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) and step up cooperation in the renewable energy sector, Seoul's government sources said Friday.
The agreements came at summit talks between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Najib Razak in Putrajaya, an administrative city just south of Kuala Lumpur.
Lee is on a two-day state visit here from Thursday as the two sides mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year. It is Lee's first trip to the nation since taking office in early 2008.
Lee and Razak agreed to start government-level preparations for a bilateral FTA, according to the sources. In 2007, South Korea launched an FTA with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Malaysia, but Seoul has pursued a higher-level bilateral FTA with the country, one of South Korea's major economic partners. Two-way trade is projected to exceed US$16 billion this year.
The leaders also agreed to strengthen partnerships on green industries such as solar energy and electric car battery production as well as nuclear power generation and biotechnology, the sources said.
Lee and Razak were to hold a joint press conference later in the day on the results of their talks after observing the signing ceremony of memorandums of understanding on oil field development and bioenergy, and a treaty on criminal and judicial cooperation.
In an interview with the Star, a Malaysian newspaper, published Friday, Lee said he was upbeat about closer economic cooperation between South Korea and Malaysia.
"In the future, our two countries should also work jointly to make further inroads into third-country markets," he said. "There is great potential in combining Malaysia's financial abilities and Korea's capacity to carry out large-scale projects."
He added, "Malaysia's abundant bio-energy resources can be most advantageously combined with Korea's excellent green technologies to create more business opportunities for both of us."